Would anyone know the best way to play this on the PC in English? I know its only Japanese Hard Copy and my Japanese is very weak, but I own a hardcopy of the original Brigandine.
Below please find my write-up around the demo. Generally positive, though it's a bit hard to fully evaluate given the limited nature of the demo. If there's anywhere else you think I should post this let me know - I really want this game to succeed.
Brigandine: Legend of Forsena is a game that by all rights should have been a flop. It was published in the U.S. by Atlus in 1998 as part of their effort to corner the market on the most obscure games possible in the late 90s. It’s a genre-defying mish-mash of styles with a bare modicum of plot and some questionable design decisions, and an SRPG which released in an era of titanic competition like Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre. The critics hated it - IGN gave it a 3/10 while the comparatively more charitable GameSpot claimed “Brigandine screams mediocrity.”
However, the game was a cult hit, and remains popular to this day. Although sales figures are impossible to obtain now, the game did well enough that two years later Hearty Robin published a revamped “Brigandine: Grand Edition” which made numerous changes and improvements - you can see a list of most them here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigandine_(video_game)
). (While that version was only released in Japan, an English fan patch fortunately exists.) I’ve personally spent at least 500 hours playing Brigandine, both Legend of Forsena and the Grand Edition, as well as various fan mods, and it remains one of my favorite games of all time. Now, twenty years later, a new entry in the Brigandine series is coming to Switch on June 25 - Brigandine, the Legend of Runersia. The free to play demo just hit the Nintendo eShop, so I’m here to provide my impressions and comparisons to the original.
Upon starting the demo, we’re granted with a nice FMV giving us some standard intro information; I particularly enjoyed the detailed illustrations of monsters and knights. So far, one of the big selling points of Legend of Runersia to me is the lavish amount of detailing on the artwork.
The demo constrains you to playing solely as the Norzaleo Kingdom, led by Rubino. Understandable for a demo, but I do wish they had allowed you to at least pan through the nation selections, even if you were limited to only selecting one. You can see more information about the other nations and their knights on the Happinet website here, however. https://brigandine.happinet-games.com/?lang=en
We’re also limited to Easy AI only in the demo. One of the major flaws with the original Brigandine game is that the AI is largely incompetent (at least by 2020 standards), limiting the games replay value without self-imposed challenges. Only having access to Easy AI makes the demo difficult to evaluate, but even on Easy, battle AI seems at least minimally competent; the AI positioned its commanders correctly and used spells well. The only major issue was a total unwillingness to retreat, which is probably due to either the Easy setting or the demo. On the strategic layer, the AI clearly had some major issues, refusing to properly summon/garrison, but I’m assuming that is also down to the difficulty/demo. One element I think will help the AI is that there now appears to be a limited-use strategic-layer resurrect function for perished monsters - a good feature overall, as losing a key high-tier monster often crippled the AI long-term in the original games.
Upon selecting a country, an opening skit plays out setting the stage for the coming conflict. For players familiar with the original game, this is very reminiscent of the opening skits from Legend of Forsena - a dash of politics, characterization, and drama. I particularly enjoyed the couple of transitions from static dialogue to more fluid bite-sized set-pieces, which helped give the scenes a feeling of life. Translation quality seems to be decent so far - characters sound a bit stilted, but it fits the setting. I did notice a few typographical errors, but those types of errors may benefit from final quality checks prior to release.
Probably the best feature of the demo is that, upon entering the world map, we can now examine all of the knights and troops for all of the countries, including many knights not featured in the previously provided biographies available at the games website. I was pleased and relieved to note that, similar to Brigandine: Grand Edition, all knights and all monsters received very nice 2d portraits and profile background write-ups.
The demo and tutorial do a nice job of explaining how the battle system works, so I won’t cover that in too much detail. One refinement from the original system I noticed immediately is that units now have up to five elemental orbs (up from three in the original games) in both offensive and defensive characteristic. Hopefully, this should open up more varied tactical options than the “red unit smash green unit” type of triangle prevalent in the original games. Units, including monsters, also appear able to equip more items now - a weapon, an armor, a helmet, and an accessory.
The strategic layer has some wonderful quality of life elements, including three zoom levels, with the furthest out resembling the old map screens from the original games. The campaign map itself is relatively bland, composed of muted browns and greens, but it fits the game’s palette overall; the same holds true for the combat maps from what I’ve seen. The 3d combat models are a bit of a mixed bag. When fully zoomed in, they look wonderfully detailed, and I spent more than a few minutes rotating the camera and looking at them in my first battle. However, when zoomed out, the details largely become lost, and it can be difficult to easily identify one unit from another, especially with the “A B C” icons partially obscuring them. I did find turning off the hex grid helped considerably with the overall presentation. The characters 2d art mostly hews to fantasy trope backgrounds and designs, which feels like a fitting continuation of the Brigandine aesthetic, and I’m personally a big fan of the art style.
I browsed through all the characters and monsters available. Most of the monsters from the original games make a reappearance, though there are certainly some differences I’ve noticed - I don’t see a Giant class, for example, seemingly having been replaced by the new Gigas units, and others have been replaced (Pixies by Gremlins) or tweaked. Overall my impression was that the unit balancing is better than either of the original games; most monsters seem to have a genuine cost-effective use. I am slightly concerned that the overall unit variety may have decreased slightly as a result of eliminating "extraneous" monsters and evolution paths, but it's difficult to be certain. I think my primary concern is over evolutions; even Grand Edition only boasted 19 unique base monster types, but it had 64 total monster results (counting base types and all possible evolutions). Legend of Runersia looks to have a comparable amount of base monsters, but I'm not sure about evolutions.
From everything I’ve seen, this should be a game that fans of the original love as well. There are a few design choices which could be questioned, but most of them I regard as improvements. Most importantly, however, there’s nothing here that would sour the fundamental recipe of success presented in the original games. All in all, this is looking to be the game that fans of Brigandine: Legend of Forsena have been hoping for for twenty years.